Art, Design

Don Mak: NOC Artist Series

19 JAN 2024

‘Art is the soul’s caffeine, awakening our senses and stirring our imagination.’

As a homegrown brand in Hong Kong, NOC is committed to promoting art and culture among coffee enthusiasts while supporting local creativity. In our newly launched coffee table book, ‘The Curated‘ , local illustrator Don Mak, renowned for his cityscape paintings, captures the everyday scenes of Tai Wai in his signature watercolor style.

When you next visit NOC The Wai, you can also explore this community through his artistic strokes. For now, let’s take a coffee break and delve into his creative journey from our recent interview with him.

1. Where do you usually find inspiration for your creations?

Inspiration can strike unexpectedly, like when I’m browsing in a store and a song catches my ear or a line from a book suddenly comes to mind. I make it a practice to jot down these moments and save them for the right project. I don’t solely rely on waiting for inspiration to come. I actively gather information and immerse myself in various sources, allowing ideas to evolve organically. It’s the combination of these spontaneous sparks and diligent research that fuels my creative projects.

2. How long does it take you to finish each piece of work?

Typically, illustration projects take about two to four weeks from sketching and client communication to final completion. However, for smaller-sized illustrations, it’s possible to wrap them up within a week.

3. Can you tell us more about the work that you co-curated with NOC? How do you feel about it?

When I received the brief from you to create an illustration of Tai Wai and the Sha Tin district, it was evident that the landmark in the area, Shing Mun River, deserved special attention. So the river became the focal point of the map layout, and everything else fell into place naturally. As I worked on the map, memories of cycling with friends along the river came flooding back, adding a personal touch to the project.

4. What advice would you give to any young artists?

Perhaps it would be to draw as much as possible and try to capture the moment as best you can.

'Mini Bus Racing Driver', 2023, Watercolour with digital modification.
'A for Anita Mui', 2020, Watercolour with digital modification. Credit: Tatler Hong Kong

5. What are your thoughts on being a Hong Kong artist? What does Hong Kong mean to you?

I feel privileged to have grown up in Hong Kong and pursued a career as an illustrator. While Hong Kong’s culture may not have the same historical depth as some other cities, it possesses a distinct charm. It’s like a vibrant blend of colours where two cultural influences collide, creating a one-of-a-kind hue that represents the essence of Hong Kong.

6. Is there a relationship between art and coffee? Is there anything specific you would like to explore further?

I remember one time when I had to be out of town for a few days to attend a wedding, but I couldn’t leave my work behind. So, I spent an afternoon working with my iPad at a randomly picked cafe. It struck me how much this experience resembled the lifestyle of Haruki Murakami. My mind was brimming with fresh ideas. Perhaps coffee shops hold a special charm, providing a creative spark for writers and artists.

'Hong Kong International Airport PostArt', 2023, Watercolour with digital modification. Credit: The Hong Kong International Airport

7. Last, but not least, how do you take your coffee?

Since quitting puffing, my coffee intake has risen around 3-4 cups daily. I prefer the convenience of using pre-ground ‘100% Arabica’ coffee from the supermarket, allowing me to brew a generous morning batch. Although a friend enlightened me about the impact of water temperature on taste, I must confess my laziness in following precise guidelines. As long as the coffee gives me a boost, I’m content with a simple hot water brew.

'Life is Art', 2021, Watercolour with digital modification. Credit: MOViE MOViE, Hong Kong
'Shek Kip Mei’s Life', 2022, Watercolour with digital modification. Credit: Heritage of Mei Ho House
'West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre', 2013, Chinese ink with digital modification. Credit: WKCDA 西九文化區管理局

About Don Mak

Don Mak is an illustrator born and raised in Hong Kong and is now based in the UK. The passion and artistry bloomed early. At 16, he left school and joined the local comic talents. He later continued his studies in arts and design, enriching the wealth of knowledge and skills gained in the working years. In 2009, he graduated with First Class Honours in BA (Hons) in Design – Visual Communication from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. After graduation, Mak started as a freelance illustrator, and he later founded the DONMAK & CO. illustration studio in 2016. The studio has collaborated with clients from commercial brands, magazines, publishers, advertising agencies and organisations.


Instagram: @donmak